He was as good as his word. That night, as the youngsters were shouting and romping and skylarking, as they always did before turning in, he stood upon his cot and shouted: "Silence! List to me a little!" And then, in the hush that followed-- "I want those bachelors to hear this: that we squires serve them no longer, and if they would ha' some to wait upon them, they must get them otherwheres than here. There be twenty of us to stand against them and haply more, and we mean that they shall ha' service of us no more."
Then he jumped down again from his elevated stand, and an uproar of confusion instantly filled the place. What was the effect of his words upon the bachelors he could not see. What was the result he was not slow in discovering.
The next day Myles and Gascoyne were throwing their daggers for a wager at a wooden target against the wall back of the armorer's smithy. Wilkes, Gosse, and one or two others of the squires were sitting on a bench looking on, and now and then applauding a more than usually well-aimed cast of the knife. Suddenly that impish little page spoken of before, Robin Ingoldsby, thrust his shock head around the corner of the smithy, and said: "Ho, Falworth! Blunt is going to serve thee out to-day, and I myself heard him say so. He says he is going to slit thine ears." And then he was gone as suddenly as he had appeared.
Myles darted after him, caught him midway in the quadrangle, and brought him back by the scuff of the neck, squalling and struggling.
"There!" said he, still panting from the chase and seating the boy by no means gently upon the bench beside Wilkes. "Sit thou there, thou imp of evil! And now tell me what thou didst mean by thy words anon--an thou stop not thine outcry, I will cut thy throat for thee," and he made a ferocious gesture with his dagger.
It was by no means easy to worm the story from the mischievous little monkey; he knew Myles too well to be in the least afraid of his threats. But at last, by dint of bribing and coaxing, Myles and his friends managed to get at the facts. The youngster had been sent to clean the riding-boots of one of the bachelors, instead of which he had lolled idly on a cot in the dormitory, until he had at last fallen asleep. He had been awakened by the opening of the dormitory door and by the sound of voices--among them was that of his taskmaster. Fearing punishment for his neglected duty, he had slipped out of the cot, and hidden himself beneath it.
Those who had entered were Walter Blunt and three of the older bachelors. Blunt's companions were trying to persuade him against something, but without avail. It was--Myles's heart thrilled and his blood boiled--to lie in wait for him, to overpower him by numbers, and to mutilate him by slitting his ears--a disgraceful punishment administered, as a rule, only for thieving and poaching.
"He would not dare to do such a thing!" cried Myles, with heaving breast and flashing eyes.
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